The 2020 Guernsey Literary Festival has been cancelled. Full story


Apr 5, 2019

More than 60 events organised for this year's festival

When the organisers of the first Guernsey Literary Festival plunged into their first event back in 2011, they couldn’t have guessed that just nine years later the Festival would have become an annual event and one of the highlights of the island’s arts calendar.

Or that in 2019, the seventh Guernsey Literary Festival, there would be more than 60 events organised.

Or that in a small island like Guernsey, 4000 tickets would be sold for events in 2018, and 2000 children in the education programme would be able to meet and listen to some of the UK’s most successful writers and speakers.

In terms of the number of events and the range of their subjects, the 2019 Guernsey Literary Festival, which runs from 1-6 May, will be the biggest yet. There are more than 60 events taking place during the festival spanning history, the arts, music, current affairs, business, sport, health, wellbeing, nature, travel, poetry, and literary greats.

There is also a vibrant family, community and schools programme, events and workshops for local writers and creatives as well as evening events with cutting-edge spoken word performances.


It is primarily a literary festival and one of the big names in literary fiction – and someone with direct and sometimes controversial views – Lionel Shriver, writer of the acclaimed and troubling novel We Have to Talk About Kevin, will be in Guernsey to talk about her latest short stories, a collection titled Property.

Patrick Gale is a classy writer whose novels have appeared on the Sunday Times bestseller list no fewer than four times! He’ll be talking about his latest novel Take Nothing with You, an intense sad-funny comedy about adolescence, betrayal and music, all with a heady mix of memories of the 1970s.

Crime and thriller writers are well represented, with Erin Kelly talking about her latest psychological thriller Stone Mothers, which follows her best-seller He Said/She Said. Erin will also be taking part in a crime time conversation with another best-selling crime writer, Mark Billingham, who also has a brand new book out, Their Little Secret. These two events are sponsored by Appleby.

Emma Healey won the Costa First Novel Award for Elizabeth is Missingand her latest book, Whistle in the Dark, is a compelling modern family drama in which a 15-year-old daughter goes missing. She is found and appears unharmed, but her behaviour begins to change.

Award-winning journalist and writer Madeleine Bunting, better known for her non-fiction history A Model Occupation, published 25 years ago, returns to the subject in her novel Island Song. Her talk will be on the irresistible appeal of the Occupation for novelists.

Dr Lucy Christopher, internationally acclaimed academic, teacher and writer of YA (young adult) fiction, is running a special workshop to help writers to find out more about developing an authentic voice and to indulge in some serious creative play. Lucy is the bestselling, award-winning author of Stolen, Flyaway, The Killing Woods, Storm-Wake, and The Darkness. She is a specialist in YA fiction, but this workshop is suitable for writers of all forms, as well as those working on young people’s fiction.


No literary festival should be without its poets, and this year Guernsey will host Lemn Sissay MBE, well-known for his strong lyrical poems on social and family themes. He is also a truly inspiring speaker. 

Maura Dooley, an accomplished poet and Professor of Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, is the judge of this year’s Guernsey International Poetry Competition, but she will also be giving a reading of her work and running a poetry workshop. And, of course, Maura will be at the presentation for the poetry competition winners, all sponsored by Guernsey Post. 

And in the true spirit of performance poetry, Joelle Taylor will be performing in an event upstairs at the Golden Lion. Award-winning poet Joelle has just returned from touring Europe, Australia and south-East Asia with her latest collection, Songs my Enemy Taught Me.Unsurprisingly, Joelle is a great performer. The evening event will have actors Andrew Hislop and Lawrence Stubbings performing a scene from Othello. Andrew is also putting on two Shakespeare workshops.


From broadcasting this year come Libby Purves and Lucy Siegle. Libby, also a writer and theatre critic, is probably best known as the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Midweek, which she did for 33 years. She has also written 12 novels and books on subjects as diverse as sailing and child care. The subject of her talk is On and Off the Air, about her long career in radio, as well as her writing. It is sponsored by Browns Advocates.

Lucy, interviewed earlier in this newspaper, is an environmental campaigner, writer and broadcaster, and often appears on BBC TV’s The One Show. Her book Turning the Tide on Plastic, is particularly relevant to Guernsey, as we get to grips with a new method of dealing with our waste. The talk is sponsored by PraxisIFM.


From politics come Professor Kerry Brown and Professor Albert Weale. China-watcher Kerry will speak at the Business Breakfast, sponsored by Butterfield and already sold out, about one of the world’s most powerful men, President Xi of China. Albert was so inspired – or shocked – by so many politicians and leaders in the Brexit debate claiming that they knew ‘the will of the people’ that he decided to write a book about the subject, a modern myth.

Another speaker on politics, though this time politics of the arts, is Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England. He believes that in the 21stcentury creativity is the single most catalyst for change in our lives and should be recognised. His talk, sponsored by the Guernsey Arts Commission, will be based on his book Creativity: Why it Matters. It’s a subject particularly at home with the Guernsey Literary Festival.

Erwin James knows all about prisons; he served 20 years of a mandatory life sentence. He is now editor in chief of Inside Out, the national newspaper for people in prison and is a national newspaper contributor and writer. His talk, sponsored by Rothschild & Co, is Some Truths about Prison: A Comprehensive Examination of what Prison Means in the UK. He will also be taking part in our Community Programme by talking to prisoners here. Rothschild & Co are also major sponsors of the Festival’s extensive education programme. 

The Myers-Briggs test is probably the world’s most popular personality test, and Professor Merve Emre has studied the strange story of the test and the mother-daughter team who conceived it. Just how did it insinuate itself into our jobs, relationships and our lives?


From the world of history come Dr Matthias Strohn and Dr Helen Rappaport. Matthias, Head of Historical analysis at the British Army’s internal think-tank and a senior lecturer in War Studies at Sandhurst, will be talking about his book 1918: Winning the War, Losing the War. Helen, a Russian and Victorians expert, will talk about her book The Race to Save the Romanovs, which explores the truth behind secret plans to rescue the Russian Imperial Family.

The Guernsey Literary Festival has always encouraged travel writers, and this year we have Horatio Clare, an award winning travel writer and memoirist. His latest book, The Light in the Dark– a Winter Journal, is moving and deeply atmospheric. He will also talk about Down to the Sea in Ships,an account of voyages on container ships.

Explorer and writer Huw Lewis-Jones is back to take part in a conversation about maps with two other accomplished writers, Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Piers Torday. Maps have the power to transport us to distant lands on wonderful travels and in this conversation, these three authors will talk about the maps that inspired them. The event is sponsored by Rawlinson & Hunter. They are also the judges of the Write Stuff writing competition for local schoolchildren, sponsored by Julius Baer.

While on the subject of travel, our own honorary chairman Terry Waite will be at the Festival again to talk about his book Travels with a Primate. Terry, who has always attracted big audiences in Guernsey, accompanied the former Archbishop of Canterbury all over the world, and there are many tales to tell. 

Author Jackie Bennett began her career working behind the scenes in theatre and television before becoming a writer and magazine editor. She has spent the last six years travelling the British Isles in search of unusual and out-of-the-way gardens. Her books have been described as ‘part-biography, part-travel, part-garden guide.’ Her book Island Gardensincludes gardens in Sark, Herm and Guernsey.

And what about rock music history? Few rock-watchers will know more about the subject than Philip Norman, who will talk about his book Slowhand, the life and music of Eric Clapton – and probably much else besides. Philip has written acclaimed biographies of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elton John and many others.

Bradley Stephens will talk about his biography of one of the world’s greatest writers, Victor Hugo, who took refuge in Guernsey for 15 years and completed Les Miserables here.

Local author Mikal Dyas will talk about his latest project After You Alex, based on his father’s 1960 Land Rover journey following the route of Alexander the Great.


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